By Connor Steel
HAMPSHIRE CRICKET extended their unbeaten streak in County Championship Division One to three games, as they completed an eighty-seven run victory over Gloucestershire Cricket at the Ageas Bowl on Sunday, taking the final wicket late on day four as pressure finally told following impressive performances. But despite defeat the injury-hit visitors can feel delighted with their efforts as they looked dead and buried midway through the second day, only to hit the hosts with a rear-guard action that was only halted by Aneurin Donald’s efforts with the bat in the second innings under beautiful sunny skies across Southampton.
Electing to bat first and losing Joe Weatherley to injury before the toss, Hampshire made a poor start as they lost their first wicket when Ian Holland nicked behind an away swinger by Ryan Higgins in the third over. But Felix Organ, promoted to opener, combined with Nick Gubbins as both played watchfully against the new ball; the pair passing the fifty mark before the latter was trapped LBW by Mohammad Amir’s yorker delivery around the wicket for thirty . This brought captain James Vince to the crease and he showed resistance in the final twenty minute spell before the interval; the score reaching 70-2 at lunch as the sun got warmer.
With the ball getting older and pitch getting easier to bat on, runs seemed to run quickly in the afternoon session as the Hampshire pair reached the century run mark in the 40th over with a brilliant Vince boundary on the leg side. And they continued to milk Gloucestershire bowlers for singles as Organ scored his half century with seven boundaries just before the drinks breaks, whilst Vince followed this up with his own 50 off just seventy seven balls as they passed 150+ runs. But the away bowlers tired and Hampshire took full advantage as Organ let rip with successive boundaries with Vince doing the same down the other end; the hosts gaining their first batting point as they got to tea on 212-2 after a wicketless session for the visitors.
Upon the restart Organ confirmed just his second century and celebrated in front of the home fans, but to their credit Gloucestershire never gave up and took the third wicket as Vince was dismissed LBW off Amir. Three further wickets came with the new ball as Organ’s innings of 107 was ended whilst Ben Brown edged behind an inswinging and Donald was caught making the score 272-6. Keith Barker joined Liam Dawson at the crease as the pair settled things down, their partnership adding thirty-seven runs and a 3rd batting bonus point before the former edged a spinning ball; James Fuller further getting his bails removed before close.
Resuming on 310-8, Dawson and Kyle Abbott showed great determination to push the hosts towards a 4th bonus point; adding 27 more runs before the latter was trapped LBW by Graeme van Buuren. And the hosts fell eight runs short of their 350 target when Dawson was caught at deep extra cover to wrap up their innings within the first hour; but Gloucestershire’s joy seemed to be premature. In just fourteen overs the visitors fell to 31-4 at lunch with Mohammed Abbas taking all four wickets; George Scott, James Bracey, Van Buuren and Miles Hammond all sent back to the pavilion by the Pakistani fast bowler during an outstanding 42 balls.
Abbott joined in the wicket taking as he had Marcus Harris (17) caught at second slip after lunch and Fuller removed the stumps of Tom Lace (5) after a slow but resistant thirty-run partnership to leave Gloucestershire on 73-6. Huggins (46) then showed some great lower order strokes as he led an away counter-attack that yielded another 32 runs in seven overs just before tea, the batsman hooking a high Organ delivery into the hands of Holland as the visitors reached 111-7 before the interval. And it got worse for Gloucestershire as Abbas confirmed a five-for when he had Dominic Goodman caught, whist quickly sealing his sixth wicket of Amir for a duck to leave the visitors on 124-9 around half an hour into the evening session’s play on day two.
This was the point that saw Gloucestershire suddenly increase their momentum with nothing to lose; Jared Warner (17) and Ajeet Singh-Dale (36*) adding fifty-five unbeaten runs in a fourteen over spell that frustrated the Hampshire bowlers. However they did wrap up the away first innings as Warner was dismissed by Organ leaving the visitors all out on 179, with Hampshire choosing to bat again despite being able to enforce the follow-on. And in eleven final overs in fine bowling conditions, the game seemed to swing back to parity as Gloucestershire took four wickets. Amir was at the heart of this away comeback as he dismissed Organ for a ducks alongside the wickets of night-watchmen Abbott and Abbas for successive LBWs; Higgins joining in the fun with the dismissal of Holland for a duck from 6 balls as Hampshire reached 28-4 at the close of play.
Gloucestershire continued this momentum at the start of day three, removing Vince and Gubbins in quick succession with Higgins taking them both. Brown then added 18 quick runs from twenty-two before being dismissed by Goodman, whilst Singh-Dale got his reward for accurate bowling as he sent Dawson back to the pavilion for twelve; the ninth Hampshire wicket falling as Barker was out for 4 off Van Duuren’s spin. This left the hosts on 103-9 and prompted the extra half hour rule before lunch, which saw Donald take control of the proceedings. The all-rounder hit three fours and three sixes as he passed fifty runs, with Fuller down the other ending providing stable support despite his unnormal batting position due to the early night-watchmen.
The pair added fifty-six in just seven overs before lunch to swing the game into Hampshire’s favour, with the run-rate slowing down dramatically after the break as they passed 200 runs off fifty-nine overs. This game changing stand was ended when Donald was dismissed for 89 runs as he dragged into the diving hands of Goodman with the score on 204, meaning that the visitors faced a record chase of 368 runs to win or to simply survive 143 overs for a draw following their 163-run first innings deficit. And to their credit the two openers showed huge patience in the thirteen overs before tea to reach 35-0 against good new ball bowling.
The sun continued to shine at the Ageas Bowl and this made batting play easier after tea, Scott and Harris appearing in little danger despite the odd ball spitting off the cracking surface. And following a brilliant half-century partnership confirmed in just seventeen overs, Abbas made the breakthrough as he removed Harris with a ball that kept low to make it 54-1 just six deliveries later. Bracey added two runs before he was pinned LBW off Dawson’s leg spin delivery with the score 64-2, which was Hampshire’s last success on day three as Scott passed his half century for just the second time in his first class career; Hammond adding a hard-fought fifteen to leave Gloucestershire on 111-2 going into the final day needing 257 more runs to get a win.
Scott and Hammond continued their frustrating partnership in the final morning session with slow but very stubborn progress, still needing just under three runs per over to win the match. Hampshire did make the breakthrough an hour into play as Scott danced down the track and found the mid-on fielder, ending a fine innings which saw a personal best 77 runs and after four hours at the crease; but this was the sole success in two hours before lunch as the visitors reached 181-3 at the interval with a draw perhaps the likelier result.
With Hampshire waiting for the new ball a surprise bonus wicket arrived after 77 overs as Holland removed Van Duuren by smashing the stumps; Hammond reaching his half century before he was deemed LBW missing a straight delivery to make the score 201-5 with the new ball now eleven balls old. And the hosts were in full control with another two quickfire wickets as Abbas had Lace caught at midwicket, Goodman tickling an edge that was snapped up by Brown behind the stumps to leave the away side on 218-7. An eighth wicket came in the 98th over following another spell of solid defence before tea, Huggins caught behind by Brown as he attempted a cut on 25 runs as Hampshire now needed just two wickets to win.
And victory was secured for the hosts despite Warner’s unbeaten 32 runs off seventy-five balls as the batsman simply ran out of partners. The ninth wicket came thirty-five minutes upon the restart as Amir’s shot was brilliantly caught by the diving Donald at cover for 18 runs, which included some great stroke play against the persistent home bowlers. Hampshire sealed the victory at approximately 4:45pm as Singh-Dale was strangled down the leg side and caught by Brown; Fuller clinching these two final wickets to spark relieved celebrations at the Ageas Bowl with the hosts getting twenty-two points overall from this encounter.
Victory keeps Hampshire second in the County Championship top flight with 81 points from five games played this season, sitting just eight points behind Surrey at the top. Vince’s side will now face a break from league action as they host a Sri Lankan Development squad from Friday (May 13), before travelling to Taunton for their reverse Somerset fixture starting on May 19 as the Twenty-20 blast then takes centre stage.
PICTURED BY HAMPSHIRE CRICKET: Abbas and Holland celebrate a wicket at the Ageas Bowl as the hosts finally beat Gloucestershire over four days, the topsy-turfy league encounter reaching a big climax.